The Rapidian

Ethics and Religion Talk: Is polygamy really against God's Word?

“EArthur” asks, “Is a husband having two wives really against the word of God?”

What is Ethics and Religion Talk?

“Ethics and Religion Talk,” answers questions of ethics or religion from a multi-faith perspective. Each post contains three or four responses to a reader question from a panel of nine diverse clergy from different religious perspectives, all based in the Grand Rapids area. It is the only column of its kind. No other news site, religious or otherwise, publishes a similar column.

The first five years of columns, published in the Grand Rapids Press and MLive, are archived at http://topics.mlive.com/tag/ethics-and-religion-talk/. More recent columns can be found on TheRapidian.org by searching for the tag “ethics and religion talk.”

We’d love to hear about the ordinary ethical questions that come up on the course of your day as well as any questions of religion that you’ve wondered about. Tell us how you resolved an ethical dilemma and see how members of the Ethics and Religion Talk panel would have handled the same situation. Please send your questions to [email protected].

Dr Sahibzada, the Director of Islamic Center and Imam of the Mosque of Grand Rapids, responds:

“The successful person is who purifies life, surrenders to Will of the Creator and glorifies Him through obedience to His commandments. Such best exemplary life is the life of Messengers. God has directly guided them and inspired them to the best life style to be adopted and as model role for followers.

“Forty godly figures had more than one wife, including Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, Muhammad and particularly Solomon who had countless wives (peace be upon them).

“It is better to have legally permitted another wife rather than facing humiliation and other hidden demerits. Majority of humans have one wife; however, it is permitted by God to have extra wives with extreme strict condition of justice. He commands that justice is obligation. He also indicates that if you are unable to do justice, then one wife is enough to manage and adore this worldly life in a proper manner through His Mercy, patience, sobriety and dignity.  

“One is unique number being GOD is ONE. He has created you from one soul spreading you on earth. Do justice because it is closer to godliness and be mindful of God. Having more than one wife is according to word of God under utmost higher level of justice. It must prevail in all respects.

“Love and Mercy have been placed in hearts of a couple to gain peace, tranquility and comfort from each other because love of carnal desires have been adorned in hearts of humans.”

Fred Stella, the Pracharak (Outreach Minister) for the West Michigan Hindu Temple, responds:

“Hindu scholars tend to agree that there was no divinely ordained order for marriage. While marriage can have a deeply spiritual aspect to it, how it is defined evolves (or  devolves) as societies do.  Like many ancient cultures, Hindus have a legacy of polygamy. Back then it was viewed as a way to expand the population.

“The question is posed in a manner that is foreign to Hindu thought. By ‘word of God’ I assume the writer is referring to Holy Writ. While we respect the great wisdom contained in our scriptures we also take into account modern sensibilities. Most Hindus now agree that monogamy is the most appropriate arrangement.

“In the very colorful Hindu epic/scripture, The Mahabharata, we find the story (probably part historical, part myth) where Arjuna ‘wins’ the fair maiden, Draupadi in a game of chance. He brings her to meet his mother, who happens to have her back turned when the couple walks in. Arjuna excitedly exclaims that he has won something great. Without looking toward him his mother tells him that whatever it is he must share with his brothers. Thus does Draupadi end up with 5 husbands. This story did not create a culture of polyandry. It has been analyzed by scholars as a deeply spiritual allegory.”

Father Kevin Niehoff, O.P., a Dominican priest who serves as Adjutant Judicial Vicar, Diocese of Grand Rapids, responds:

“Sexual intercourse between a man and a woman who have given themselves freely and completely in marriage is a form of prayer, and the closest to God two people may reach in this created world.

“The word for having more than one wife is ‘polygamy’ which according to the Roman Catholic Church defies moral law because ‘conjugal love is undivided and exclusive’ (Catechism of the Catholic Church, p. 411). Yes, a husband having two wives is against the divine law of marriage.”

Rev. Ray Lanning, a retired minister of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, responds:

“The pattern for human marriage is the exclusive bond or covenant between God and His people, between Christ and His church (Genesis 17:7; Ephesians 5:31, 32). There is but one divine Bridegroom, and He has only one bride. Monogamy is but the outworking of God’s original institution of marriage: ‘Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife; and they shall be one flesh’ (Genesis 2:24).

“Polygamy or plural marriage was practiced for a long time among the people of God, but in nearly every instance, the evils of it were all too apparent. As a feature of patriarchal society, it demeaned women; a wife was reckoned as ‘chattel’ or property belonging to her husband, to be listed among his other livestock and assets. Christ closed the door on polygamy when He insisted that our marriage practices should conform to the original pattern of Genesis 2:24; see Matthew 19:4, 5.”

My response:

According to Biblical tradition, a man may have more than one wife. However, about 1000 years ago, a rabbinic decree outlawed polygamy. In addition, it is worth noting that there are no Biblical descriptions of happy polygamous families, and the only couple described as being in love, Isaac and Rebecca, was monogamous. The Hebrew Bible clearly prefers two-partner couples.

 

This column answers questions of Ethics and Religion by submitting them to a multi-faith panel of spiritual leaders in the Grand Rapids area. We’d love to hear about the ordinary ethical questions that come up on the course of your day as well as any questions of religion that you’ve wondered about. Tell us how you resolved an ethical dilemma and see how members of the Ethics and Religion Talk panel would have handled the same situation. Please send your questions to [email protected].

The Rapidian, a program of the 501(c)3 nonprofit Community Media Center, relies on the community’s support to help cover the cost of training reporters and publishing content.

We need your help.

If each of our readers and content creators who values this community platform help support its creation and maintenance, The Rapidian can continue to educate and facilitate a conversation around issues for years to come.

Please support The Rapidian and make a contribution today.

Comments, like all content, are held to The Rapidian standards of civility and open identity as outlined in our Terms of Use and Values Statement. We reserve the right to remove any content that does not hold to these standards.

Browse